How to Help a Veteran in Crisis 5 Signs and 4 Ways to Help
By Elizabeth Crain
It’s important to support our nation’s heroes and help Veterans in their time of need. We hope this resource will educate you on how to help a Veteran in crisis, particularly when it comes to their mental health.
To start, we’d like to shed some light on some prevalent mental health issues within the Veteran community.
How Many Veterans Battle with Mental Illness?
The Wounded Warrior Project, an organization that focuses on empowering Veterans to get help from, and be more involved with their communities, has found the following trends from user surveys:
- 72% experienced depression, with 53% presenting moderate to severe symptoms.
- 74% experienced anxiety, with 63% presenting moderate to severe symptoms
- 25% of surveyed Veterans have had suicidal thoughts within the past 12 months.
- 16% of surveyed Veterans experienced military sexual trauma (67% of those being women).
- 75% of surveyed Veterans experienced PTSD as a result of their service, with 49% presenting moderate to severe symptoms.
Another study from BMC Women’s Health found that women are more likely to develop service-related mental health conditions when compared to their male counterparts.
PTSD: 29% of female Veterans vs. 12% of male Veterans
Depression: 46% of female Veterans vs. 21% of male Veterans
Suicidal ideation: 27% of female Veterans vs. 11% of male Veterans
5 Signs of Someone Battling a Mental Illness
There are many potential symptoms someone may exhibit when struggling with mental health disorders. This is because different conditions can manifest different traits.
This is because different conditions can manifest different traits. Additionally, many symptoms are internal, making them difficult for you to pick up on.
Regardless, here are five common signs family members of Veterans may observe that can hint at an underlying battle with mental health.
- Excessive worrying: It’s normal to have a little anxiety throughout the day, like worrying you left the stove on after you’ve left the house. Excessive worrying, however, can be debilitating. This is when fears and anxiety creep into your everyday life, keeping you from functioning optimally.
- Extreme mood changes: A little fluctuation in mood is nothing to worry about. But when someone’s mood is unpredictable, even to themselves, that can be a sign of a larger issue.
- Avoidance of friends or social situations: Many people who have mental illness can feel overwhelmed in social scenarios, even if they’re surrounded by friends and family. If you find that Veterans in your life aren’t as willing to come out to socialize, that may be your sign to check in on them.
- Changes in eating habits: People with anxiety disorders can have very different relationships with food. Some over eat as a coping mechanism, while others lose their appetite altogether. A change in either direction may be an indication that they have experienced a significant change in mood or mental state.
- Changes in sex drive: You may notice a sudden change in their sex drive. People with depression tend to lose interest in activities they once enjoyed, including sex.
Ways You Can Help a Veteran in Crisis
There’s a lot you can do to better support the Veterans in your life who are going through mental health challenges.
Here are four suggestions for how to help a Veteran in crisis.
- Educate Yourself About Their Illness
There is a lot of nuance to mental health illnesses. While you may never be an expert, you can do your best to educate yourself on these nuances so you have a baseline to help the Veterans in your life. The National Alliance on Mental Illness has a resource that addresses the basics of many of the most common mental health disorders Veterans may experience. This is a great place to start your educational journey.
- Help Them Find Treatment
If the Veteran in your life is willing to seek treatment, you can help them get there. This may start with getting a proper diagnosis for their condition. Securing a diagnosis will help open the door to future treatment options. If you are a family member or spouse of the Veteran, you may want to work closely with their treatment team so you can stay in the loop on what their home treatment should look like.
- Be Patient
The path toward better management of mental health disorders is far from linear. There may be times of significant progress, but other times it may seem like no progress has been made at all. Just be patient and trust the process. It can be hard to get a holistic view of one’s progress, so focus on small successes in the meantime.
- Take Care of Yourself
You can’t be very helpful to others if you aren’t taking care of yourself. Don’t think of it as being selfish—just think of it as an opportunity to recharge. Eat healthily, exercise regularly, and don’t forget to indulge in your favorite activities. You may consider attending therapy for yourself.
Veteran Mental Health Resources to Know About
To supplement your own education, here is a list of Veteran mental health resources that may be helpful:
- Veterans Crisis Line is a Veteran mental health organization that offers confidential crisis support 24/7.
- National Alliance on Mental Illness offers resources for family members and caregivers of people living with mental health conditions.
- Telemedica organized a list of 25 organizations that help Veterans with jobs, injuries, housing, and many other means of support.
- This PTSD info sheet for recurring PTSD therapy can help families of Veterans with PTSD explore potential treatment options.
- These FAQs about psych evaluations can shed some light on treatment options.
- The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has a plethora of resources for families coping with mental and substance use disorders.
Help Veterans Towards the Path of Peace
If you’re witnessing a loved one in their struggle with mental illness, get some help. Telemedica is here to connect Veterans and their families with the resources they need. Contact us today for more information.